SEATTLE — A historic day at the CrawsOver Pro-Am featuring more NBA talent than has been on the court in Seattle since the league’s last preseason visit ended early due to court conditions, but not before what organizer Jamal Crawford called “an unbelievable, one “. of one” experience.
Although several of the league’s biggest stars have played in the CrawsOver since games moved to its current home (Royal Brougham Pavilion on the campus of Seattle Pacific University), including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffinhype for the pro-am never reached the heights it did Saturday.
The excitement began on Friday, when Crawford and LeBron James tweeted that the four-time MVP would return to Seattle for the first time since his last road game against the Sonics in January 2007, more than 15 years ago.
James was joined by fellow All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Dejounte Murrayas well as this year’s top two draft picks (Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgrenalthough Holmgren left in the opening moments of the game with an apparent ankle injury), two other first-round picks (locals MarJon Beauchamp and Tari Eason) and three other NBA veterans: locals CJ Elleby and Isaiah Thomas and a visitor Aaron Gordon.
With free attendance capped at less than 3,000, fans began camping out overnight on Friday to ensure their place in line. Thousands stayed outside after the gym reached capacity.
Luminaries in the crowd included Hall of Fame player and coach Lenny Wilkens, LA Clippers president Steve Ballmer, several former Seattle Seahawks (Cliff Avril, Marcus Trufant and KJ Wright) and members of both the Seattle Storm and Washington Mystics – who coached elsewhere. in the building earlier Saturday before Game 2 of their WNBA playoff series on Sunday.
The crowd erupted when James entered the gym a little before the scheduled 6 pm for the final game of the day with the NBA stars. Tipoff had to be delayed briefly after a crowd of spectators surrounded James on the court, with Crawford taking the microphone to plead with fans to restore order and the Seattle Police Department warning that the entire event might be shut down.
Not long after the game started, condensation became a problem. On an unusually humid day for Seattle in the summer, the combination of a packed crowd and the heat caused repeated wet spots on the court.
“Every time they dried it up, it didn’t get better,” said Beauchamp, whose slide on the go up to end midway through the second quarter sealed the decision to call the action with 5:47 left in the second quarter.
“You don’t often get a day like this, but it’s my job to protect everyone’s safety,” Crawford explained. “On the court, I couldn’t risk those guys risking injury. It’s not worth it. It’s got to drive inspiration and give hope and they did that. The job was done.”
While fans didn’t get a full game, the stars packed a lot of highlights into a quarter and a half of basketball. Tatum was the highlight of the day, hitting a series of long 3-pointers early in the gamedotting some of them with his signature blown kiss to the crowd.
Playing together, Tatum and James teamed up for the main highlight of the day, a high-arching lob in transition that James finished with his left hand. James also punctuated the end of the first quarter with powerful dunk.
As Crawford took the microphone again to announce the end of the game, he thanked the visiting stars for their participation.
“Obviously, everybody didn’t get in and everybody probably never could get in,” he said later. “We tried to do the best we can. We tried to provide an experience that we’ve never had before. I thought overall it was great because I think it’s moments and memories that the kids will never forget.”
That was certainly the case for Beauchamp, who has played in the CrawsOver dating back to his days as a high school player in Seattle but never with competition like this.
“The experience was [once in] all your life,” said Beauchamp. “You’ll probably never see that. It was cool to be there in Seattle, all these great players. Dreamed about this.”